Saturday 31 October 2009

Green Circuit to be launched officially at World Travel Market London

Green Circuit, an idea mooted by Social Tours - Nepal is now a partnership between 5 responsible tourism operators in the India Sub continent. Social Tours, Grass Routes, Ecosphere, The Blue Yonder and Help Tourism are coming together to provide a unique network of responsible holidays in the subcontinent.

Green circuit proves the fact that tourism industry can work together and complement each other, rather than competing with each other other. Green circuit features various destinations covering Nepal, Eastern and Western Himalayas, West Bengal and North Eastern India and South India.

We welcome you to join us at the official launch of Green Circuit at World Travel Market - London. Fiona Jeffery - Chairman of WTM and Just a Drop, will launch the initiative on the World Responsible Tourism day on 11th November 2009 at the stand of International Centre for Responsible Tourism - India (AS4600 / 03).

Thursday 29 October 2009

Certification makes green see red!

The following is my comment on Catherine Mack's article on certification:

"When responsibility comes from within, whether someone is certified or not doesn't make a difference. However unfortunately that's not how majority of the industry functions. To what extend can reporting back from travellers bring in a control on green-washers? To what extend can tourist actually see the entire supply chain and report back? To what extend would a traveller run around and report back on the green credentials of operators / properties, rather than enjoying their holidays?...

In 5 years of running our company, we have come across many DMC's in India who are many times transparent and accountable than any that has been certified by someone like Green Globe. To do a fantastic job, they don't need certification, however this doesn't mean that any one of these people might be unwilling to respond to questions from those who are interested in the responsibility factor of their business.

We know personally many stories of poorest of poor artisans in the state of Rajasthan who are cheated by so-called fair trade organisations funded by many international organisations. It's not about taking massive amount of margins. (A leather bag bought at 7 Euro sold at 110 Euro in Habitat isn't our concern.)But, to pay these poor artisans, below standard rates to mass produce these bags and then call it fair-trade is the crime. When we ask the illiterate artisan(sitting in front of a big poster announcing the fair-trade practices of his partners (meaning organised buyers in Europe and their whole sale agents in India))what he understands by "fair trade", he says, he gets about 20 GBP per year to send his kids to school ! For me, that is scandal and not fair trade!

When you see a stamp of fair-trade on a product that one purchases in the west, people buy those (to an extend) as a guilt free experience. 'My purchase is making a difference to the destination from where this product came from. I know that this product I buy hasn't been sourced through exploitation'. Oxfam fair trade coffee became a hit earlier mainly because of this. However, as in the case of a traveller, who might want to know more of about the responsibility factor of the supply chain on which the holiday is running, the lay customer who quickly runs into a fair-trade shop doesn't have or resources or energy to investigate the 'fairness' of these products.

I am not suggesting that we need to have another organisation that certify the 'fairness' of the organisation that has already certified these products. Though that will be a hilarious situation.

What is missing in all the certification process is the matter of 'Trust'. Our guests purchase many souvenirs from the artisans we work with mainly in Kerala and Rajasthan. They buy leather products, bell metal art, pottery and puppets without any question of 'certification'. None of these are certified products in any case!

The reason they purchase these with genuine interest is because of the 'trust' they have developed with the company they are travelling with, and most importantly because they are purchasing it straight from the hand of the artisan without a middle-man. ( certified or not!).

I don't know how this 'trust' factor can be built in the purchase when you buy it from elsewhere. (, a purchase in a shop in London claiming to have fair practices)

However one way to sort out of these issue of trust / certification is for the operators ( Tour, or property owners) to be pro-active about their claims. Orchid Ecotel in Mumbai for e.g, are so proud to show their guests on check-in about the responsibility in which they are running their business! This touch and feel experiences makes all the difference.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Art auction at RT networking ITB Asia

One stroke, one good deed

Make your stroke on our canvas and inspire artist Sarbani Bhattacharya, to create a piece of art that will commemorate WIT 2009. The art work will be auctioned off and proceeds will go towards the Himmapaan Foundation of Thailand.

A project of Isse.E.Rasers a volunteer initiative which uses creative mediums to increase people's sensitisation and action in social and environmental concerns so individuals become "issue erasers".

Sarbani Bhattacharya is a freelance artist in Singapore. Her painting style is semi-abstract and represents narrative art.

Himmaapaan Foundaiton supports sustainable tourism in Thailand. It strives to restore or improve the quality of local people in their communities and their surroundings and supports environmental protection projects.

The auction will take place at the responsible tourism networking event Oct 22, 2009 between 18.00-20.00 Room number 208. RT networking at ITB Asia is co-organised by Wild Asia, The Blue Yonder and

Saturday 17 October 2009

Kerala tourism roadshows in Oslo, Helsinki and Stockholm

We are participating in the Kerala Tourism roadshows organised in the Oslo,Helsinki and Stockholm. This is continuation to the roadshows in Brussels and Milan. In a newly designed format, the business meetings are organised in well-known Indian restaurants rather than in hotel auditoriums.

Wonder how much of business can be talked over mouth-watering spicy meals! Let's see!

Oslo 2 Nov 2009 Agra Restaurant,
Stranden 3, 0250 Aker Brygge, Oslo, Norway

Helsinki(Finland) 4 Nov 2009 Samrat Restaurant
Intialainen Ravintola, EtelÀ Esplanadi 22c,
00130 Helsinki, Finland

Stockholm (Sweden) 5 Nov 2009 Alishan Restaurant
Timmermansgatan 35 11855 Stockholm Sweden

The Blue Yonder will be represented by our Scandinavian representative Linda VerÄsdal. All meetings will be between 5-8 pm on respective dates. For more information please contact us .

Tuesday 13 October 2009

October newsletter released

Our newsletter for Oct 2009 is now available online. It features a travelogue written by Zainab Kakal who visited Sunderbans immediately after Cyclone Aila that hit Eastern India on 25th May. It carries an interview with Jeremy Smith, founder of on the potential of the website to bring together innovative solutions to sustainable development. Two other articles show case The Blue Yonder attending ITB Asia and WTM London. A short summary of latest recognitions to TBY can also be read here.

For more details, check online here

Monday 12 October 2009

Ivili - innovations for sustainable solutions

Jeremy Smith is a writer and producer specializing in environmental, travel and cultural issues. Former editor of Ecologist magazine, Jeremy recently co-authored 'Clean Breaks - 500 New Ways to See the world' with Richard Hammond. His interest in sustainable development led him to set up, an online platform to bring together solutions from practitioners from different parts of the world. Jeremy is also a winner of "exemplary journalism" for writing one of the top ten censored stories of the year, called Re-Engineering Iraqi Agriculture.

Jeremy in conversation with The Blue Yonder on is a free and evergrowing library of tools, solutions and inspirations for sustainable living. Whether you are looking for advice on sustainable living, such as growing food in your garden using permaculture techniques or generating your electricity in a more ecofriendly way; or if you want ideas and inspirations for community projects that might work in your own area; or are keen to volunteer on an environmental project but don't know what's out there; or perhaps you are a funder looking to support essential work in an area you are passionate about, then Ivili is a unique place to start looking for what you need as it only focuses on bringing you sustainable solutions from all over the world.

Read the complete interview here

Memories of Cyclone Aila

Ravaged Beauty : Sunderbans copyright � 2009 Zainab Kakal

Cyclone Aila Support Group managed to raise 5,00,000 INR (appr 10,550 USD) through the facebook campaign. Compared to the devastation and the need in Sunderbans, this amount is quite small. However with guidance from Association for Conservation and Tourism, the money is spend on basic needs of the affected people. Charities Aid Foundation India is doing the due diligence, programme planning, funds disbursement, monitoring, auditing and reporting. Updates from us will be send to all donors. We thank all the organisations and people who raised awareness about the disaster. We salute the resilience of the people of Sunderbans and self-less work by our partners at Help Tourism who stood by the communities when they needed them the most."

Seeing a posting on facebook for a volunteer to document the Cyclone Aila that hit the Eastern India on the 25th May 2009, Zainab Kakal went to Sunderbans to share the need of the people and give her insights into the disaster that affected millions of people in West Bengal and neighbouring regions. The following text and photos are from Zainab's personal journal that she maintained during her travel to Sunderbans.

Sunderbans: the land of floating green islands:

Arrival: (June 2009) "I enter the Sunderbans exhausted. The endless journey jumping from boat to boat through the riverines has taken about 4 hours and I am drenched and extremely skeptical. The Sunderbans, even to a tired eye looks like a marvel. It is close to being called mythical for it could not be real - it is the land of floating green islands.

I am sitting in a boat huddled in cargo and open umbrellas. My umbrella is poked in too many places to offer any protection and my baggage is wet and drippy but I could not care less for I was in the Sunderbans. Yes, there is a wonder of it all - the endless skies, the elegant angler dropping his nets into the birthing seas, the exodus of people traveling back and forth; all in the palette of murky grays and soft blues." Read the full text here:

Sunday 4 October 2009

The Blue Yonder to attend World Travel Market, London

The first time we visited the World Travel Market was in 2005. The next year we were glad to be highly commented for Responsible Tourism awards, and there after we have been regularly exhibiting at this international trade fair in London every November. Exhibiting with the Incredible India stand, this has become a trade show that we can't afford to miss. 2007 edition saw the launch of Responsible Tourism Networking - an initiative kick started by The Blue Yonder and Your Safe Planet.

The official forums at WTM were largely focusing on larger corporations, (rightly so, as even a small change towards sustainability by these companies will have a large impact in the travel industry) so we got together many small operators from different parts of the world in a little pub in London and prompted them to pitch their RT initiatives. Since this was not officially part of the WTM programs media called it as a 'fringe event', a name that stuck and continued to be used by many of our partners as well.

Since then similar networking events have happened in London, Berlin (supported by ITB Berlin), New Delhi (supported by SATTE and ITB Berlin) and for the first time in Singapore (supported by ITB Berlin and ITB Asia) on the 22 Oct 2009. For the 2009 World Travel Market, preparations are going on for the third get together, details of which will be announced by Sally.

This year at the WTM London (9-12 Nov), The Blue Yonder is exhibiting along with Help Tourism, Ecosphere, River Retreat and under the banner of International Centre for Responsible Tourism - India. There will be new initiative launches, media interactions etc at Incredible India stand AS4600, details of which will be announced shortly.

The combined marketing initiative by DMCs and related partners focusing on responsible tourism in India is a new beginning for successful partnerships that we believe should be emulated across the world. We believe that complementing each other with their core competency is the way forward rather than competing in a cut-throat business environment. This partnership has helped us understand a lot from each others work and stand by each other when there is a need. Cyclone Aila support group that was formed as a facebook group is another example of how such networks can be formed for the benefit of people and destination. We are also officially supporting WTM World Responsible Day on the 11th November 2009 to highlight other initiatives on Responsible Tourism.

We welcome you to visit us and know more about our unique holiday experiences at the ICRT India stand at AS4600.

Friday 2 October 2009

The Blue Yonder to exhibit at ITB Asia

The Blue Yonder will be exhibiting for the first time at ITB Asia Suntech, Singapore. We will be introducing our holidays in India focusing on Kerala, Karnataka, Orissa, West Bengal, North Eastern India, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.

ITB Asia is a B2B trade show and convention for the travel industry and is designed to become the primary event for the Asia Pacific travel industry, much like its parent event, the ITB Berlin itself.

We are also co-organising Responsible tourism networking on the 22nd Oct 2009 at 1800 in partnership with ITB-Asia, and Wild Asia. There will be a dedicated stand focusing on Responsible tourism S01, where details of the Responsible Tourism Networking can be collected. ITB Asia has announced that pre-registered attendees for the RT networking can visit ITB Asia on the 23rd without any payment.

We request our trade partners and visitors to fix appointments before visiting the stand, so that prior meetings are not clashing. Click here for appointments. You can also reach Sandeep Sinha on email who will also be available at the stand C17 (The Blue Yonder).